Redlands, CA – A remarkable transformation has taken place within the City of Redlands supply store. Gone are the outdated computers and shelves of dusty inventory. In their place stand 42 state-of-the-art vending machines designed to dispense safety gear, fasteners, fittings and other items city workers need to do their jobs.
Completed in mid-August, this fully automated warehouse is the first of its kind in the nation.
“We’ve had to cut staff across all departments, and yet our workload, if anything, is getting greater,” said City Public Information Officer Carl Baker. “Automating our supply store is part of a city-wide effort to accomplish more with less and maximize every taxpayer dollar.”
Currently, more than 150 city employees are authorized to use the store. To retrieve needed supplies, they simply approach one of the vending machines, enter their employee ID, and make a product selection. If the transaction is authorized, the item is dispensed and the transaction details flow to the system’s reporting website, where authorized personnel can track real-time inventory and usage data.
The machines (and the products in them) are provided by Fastenal, an industrial and construction supplies distributor which operates a store within minutes of the facility. The company stocks dedicated inventory at the store to anticipate city demand, makes sure the machines are continually filled, and owns the product until it’s dispensed, eliminating hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of inventory for the city.
“In the past, everything was done manually – ordering, receiving, counting, reporting – but we simply didn’t have the resources to do it all efficiently and effectively,” said City Purchasing Services Manager Dana Abramovitz, who used to spend an hour or two each day managing inventory and handing out supplies at the store. “Now all of these processes are automated, giving us more time to focus on serving the city and taxpayers.”
Another key benefit is that city personnel no longer have to plan projects and preventative maintenance around the store’s operating hours, formerly limited to 7:00–11:00 a.m. Monday through Thursday. Today, products are available on a self-serve basis around the clock, 365 days a year. Additional benefits include vendor consolidation and the elimination of years of obsolete inventory – outdated medical supplies, floppy discs, and other things that, according to Abramovitz, “were needed by somebody five years ago but were just gathering dust.”
Fastenal has installed thousands of its FAST Solutions℠ industrial vending machines with corporate and government customers across the country, but the City of Redlands automated supply store – an unstaffed facility with so many machines in one location – represents a new concept in industrial vending.
“I truly believe this is the future,” added Abramovitz. “Normally you see private companies taking the lead with this kind of supply chain innovation. I’m proud that the City of Redlands is setting an example not only for other cities of our size across the state and nation, but also for private industry.”
Supported by the company’s global sourcing and logistics resources, each of Fastenal’s 2,600+ stores tailors its inventory and service to meet the needs of local customers – making regular service calls and same-day deliveries, managing a lean flow of inventory to points of use, and in general providing a level of service that saves time and money. Fastenal’s product offering is complemented by a spectrum of services and solutions, including industrial vending (FAST Solutions℠), custom manufacturing, engineering support, and various industrial services. Learn more at www.fastenal.com